The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Up fourth in this series is a 2017 preview profile of outside linebacker James Harrison.
Intro: Harrison turned 39 years of age this past March and still shows no signs of slowing down. Last season, Harrison platooned with Jarvis Jones on the right side of the Steelers defense before finally taking over the lion’s share of the snaps from Week 10 on. He led the Steelers in sacks last season with five and was third on the team in run tackles for losses with five of those as well.
Current Strengths: Harrison’s ability to effectively use his bull-rush and rip move off the edge has allowed him to stick around so long. Additionally, he remains one of the league’s best edge run defenders on the right side and very rarely misses a game due to an injury thanks to his effective, yet rigorous, offseason training program.
Current Weaknesses: For several years now, Harrison’s coverage skills have been very limited and mostly include him dropping into hook zones on the outside as he’s just not quick enough to run with eligibles out in space. While Harrison has led all Steelers outside linebackers in sacks the last two seasons, he’s been a slow starter in that statistical category in both 2015 and 2016.
2017 Outlook: With T.J. Watt now in Pittsburgh, he’s expected to eventually take over full-time on the right side. With that said, Harrison will likely open the 2017 season as the starter and eventually give way to the rookie later in the season. Harrison should wind up playing 50-60% of all defensive snaps in 2017 as long as he remains healthy and thus another five sack season figures to be well within reach for him in addition to 10 or so run tackles resulting in either no gain or a loss.
2017 Base Salary: $1,200,000 and $500,000 roster bonus
2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program
2016 Health Status: Zero games missed last season due to injury
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: 587 of 1,046
2016 Stat That Matters: Zero sacks in first 7 games and five in last 9